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Revealing the world’s picture of health

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Meat free. Gluten free. Organic. Plant based. Alcohol free. Sugar free. Vegan. GMO free. Free range. Probiotic. Prebiotic. Multigrain.

When it comes to making healthy food and drinks choices, consumers around the world are faced with an ever-growing range of options.

But what exactly do shoppers want when it comes to filling their baskets and nourishing their bodies? Does it vary from place to place, and has the way we view our health and make decisions about food changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic? What does the landscape look like in regards to post-pandemic food shopping? And how important is brand ethos to today’s consumers? We surveyed 1,000 people from all around the globe to find out.

Shopping habits post-pandemic

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It’s the question on every retailer’s lips. Will the lockdowns of the past year have a lasting impact on shopping habits? Well, according to our survey, things will change in a number of ways after the pandemic.

The majority (58%) of pollsters said they will be shopping for healthier goods, and 43% said they will shop with the intention of being more environmentally friendly. 

If you’re wondering how brick and mortar stores will fare post pandemic in comparison to their online counterparts, the outlook isn’t as bleak as you might think. Only 22% of those polled said they’ll shop exclusively online in future. The majority (55%) of people said that they plan to do a mix of online and in-store shopping once the pandemic is over.

Businesses that offer home delivery look set to continue to do well, with the majority (59%) of survey-takers saying they are more likely to opt for a delivery service than a store visit for their food shop in future.

So, what insights can brands take from these results? In order to stay ahead of the curve, food and drinks businesses need to prioritise the following when developing and marketing their products: protecting the health of consumers and limiting the environmental impact of their offering. This may translate to diversifying your product range to capture the health-conscious shopper, reducing the sugar or calorie content of your products or creating plant-based alternatives to your current goods. It might also mean removing single-use plastic from your products, investing in recyclable packaging or becoming ‘B Corp’-certified.

Brands will also need to continuously track marketing and sales KPIs in order to course-correct activities to meet changing circumstances and commercial objectives, helping to drive growth for both on and off-line retail channels. These are just a few of the ways that you can improve the health profile of your business and the eco credentials of your brand.

The importance of health benefits on packaging

A growing number of brands today make the health benefits of their products clear on food and drinks packaging to catch the health-conscious consumer’s attention. But just how important is this to potential customers on the shop floor? According to our survey, it makes all the difference. The majority of participants (65%) said that it is very important for brands to highlight the health benefits of their products.

But do these consumers put their money where their mouth is? For the most part, yes. The majority (57%) said they would definitely be more likely to buy products that highlight the health advantages on their packaging, and 36% said this might convince them to make a purchase.

The message for retailers? Food packaging design needs to change. It’s not enough to develop a food or drinks product with health benefits – you need to make those benefits loud and clear when it comes to marketing and advertising. Highlighting health advantages on product packaging could be a quick win for retailers looking to compete for the growing health-conscious consumer demographic.

The role of brand identity and ethos

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Do consumers really care which businesses they’re supporting? Our research suggests that they do. A significant majority (73%) of consumers consider a brand’s purpose when selecting products.

And it seems that finding health-conscious brands is a top priority for modern consumers. When selecting food and drinks products, 71% of consumers look for brands that are health-conscious, according to our survey. Environmental consciousness is the next priority, with 49% saying they try to shop with eco-friendly brands.

If you think that investing in health, sustainability and social initiatives is a waste of money, think again. Our survey suggests that a significant majority of consumers are looking for brands that care. More than ever, it’s important to have a clear vision of your brand’s purpose and communicate that vision effectively to your target audience. Give shoppers a good reason to choose your brand over your competitors – whether it’s to benefit their health, the planet or both – and put these messages at the heart of your marketing and advertising campaigns. Your bottom line will thank you.

How health conscious are we now?

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For many of us, it appears our attitudes towards our health seems to have shifted in the past six months. Almost one in four (24%) of our survey respondents answered 10 when asked how health conscious they are now vs six months ago on a scale of one to 10.

However, it seems that awareness doesn’t always lead to action. Almost half (48%) of people polled reported that the pandemic has made them more aware of their own health but they haven’t changed their lifestyle or habits.   

Brands need to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer attitudes towards health and provide products that will meet shoppers’ desire to take better care of themselves and their families.

Prevention or cure?

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Interestingly, a preventative approach to health does seem to be on the rise among the majority of people. The majority (63%) of survey takers said they are much more focused on preventative health now than they were six months ago.

But when it comes to prevention vs cure, which approach is the most popular? Well, in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and South Africa, the majority of respondents seem to favour preventative measures to protect their health. While in Australia, Bangladesh, France, England, India, Italy, Philippines, Pakistan, Russia and the United States, more people say they opt for a more reactive approach, just taking medicine when they feel ill rather than taking supplements to prevent illness, for example.

Singapore came out as the most prevention-focused country in our survey, with 67% saying they take preventative steps to stay well. The Philippines, meanwhile, transpired as the most reaction-focused country in our research, with only 36% choosing prevention over cure.

And which country cares least about health? Well, according to our survey, it’s France. Over one in 10 (14%) of survey respondents in France said they do not care about health issues.  

It’s important for retailers to be aware of how health-conscious their target market is in any given country and double down on efforts to develop healthier products and market health benefits, taking into consideration cultural nuances.

Health goals

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When asked what they hope to achieve with their health in the next five years, a significant majority (73%) of pollsters answered ‘better fitness’, perhaps indicating that the sports nutrition industry will continue to grow. Meanwhile, 58% said they hope to have a better diet in the next five years. ‘A stronger immune system’ was also a popular response, with 53% saying they aim to achieve this.

Making food choices: taste vs nutritional value

How much do we care about what we’re putting into our bodies? From our survey, it seems that the nutritional value of food is a top priority for shoppers. Four in 10 (41%) participants said that nutritional value is the most important deciding factor when making a purchasing decision about food. Meanwhile, 39% said they look for products that offer both taste and nutritional value. Perhaps surprisingly, only 20% said they select their food based on taste alone.

It’s clear that brands need to balance these two elements carefully if they’re to appeal to the shoppers of today and tomorrow.

Informed decision makers

Our research suggests that the majority of consumers today like to make informed decisions about what goes into their shopping basket and their bodies. Half of respondents (50%) reported that they always check the ingredients list before buying a new food or drinks product, and 40% say they sometimes check. Only 7% say they check once every so often and 3% say they never check.

The health metrics shoppers care about

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So, what information do shoppers focus on when making food choices? Our survey suggests the top answers are calories and protein. The majority of respondents (58%) said that calorific content is important to them, and the same percentage also said that protein content is a deciding purchasing factor. Vitamins seem to be a priority for the majority of shoppers too – 56% of people polled said that this was an important metric.

Perhaps surprisingly, our survey revealed that women are more likely to focus on protein content rather than calories, whereas men appear to rank the two as equally important.

Looking to win over today’s food shopper? Developing vitamin and mineral fortified food and drinks with lower calorie contents and higher protein contents could be the key to success.

Attitudes towards health and nutrition are constantly evolving, and it seems that the pandemic has expedited changes in consumer perspectives and shopping inclinations. Are brands doing enough to keep up? Have your say on the results of our survey and share your thoughts on health, nutrition and the changing landscape of retail and food and drinks branding using the hashtag #DefinitionofHealth.


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